The STAR’S Desert by Frances Allen
“It can’t get any better than this!” That’s the yearly take-away comment from guests and celebrities who have attended the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala over the past many years. This year, under the nurturing festival chairmanship of Harold Matzner and Gala co-chair Jim Houston, as well as additional major underwriting by Helene Galen and Joann McGrath, this comment is as deserved as ever.
Unlike other award galas, there were no surprises as to who will be an honoree and receive either a John Kennedy designed bronze sculpture of “The Joker” – the Festival’s logo – or a specially-crafted piece of sculptured glass artistry designed by the famed Dale Chihuly.
Approximately 2,000 guests attended the Awards Gala, while over 1,000 spectators, some camped out for 12 hours, lined Jackie Lee Houston Plaza opposite to the red-carpeted entrance to the Palm Springs Convention Center to shake hands and obtain autographs from the bevy of A-List, black-tied celebrities attending one of the biggest, most influential film festivals in the country transported, of course, by a fleet of luxury sedans and SUVs from Gala sponsor Mercedes-Benz.
Inside the cavernous Convention Center, super party planner Sheri Kelly worked her magic yet again and created an orange-hued wonderland featuring orange silk tablecloths and napkins and 2,000 lighted glass table favors accented by 12,500 roses that, when compared to last year’s total of 17,000 purple tulips, may have seemed like downsizing until you recall that a massive shortage in the world’s supply of roses was created by an event that took place in Pasadena less than a week before, causing Kelly to place her flower order very early.
As might be expected, even more noticed than the roses or the décor, was the ‘bling’ on display, thanks in part to gala sponsor, Cartier. Not only did Cartier loan some remarkable pieces of jewelry to the celebrities to wear at the gala, each of the honorees and presenters received the jeweler’s signature Tank Solo watch; plus the male presenters also received cufflinks, with Love necklaces going to the female presenters.
But here’s one gala ‘back story’ you won’t read about outside of this column. It features honoree Dame Helen Mirren, who has shown that she is as much her own woman in real life as are the characters she portrays so riveting well on screen. In an “the Queen is not amused” moment, Dame Mirren eschewed the baubles offered by Cartier, choosing instead to purchase and wear a stunning, one-of-a-kind crystal David Webb necklace with matching ring, earrings and bracelet from David Webb Jewelers in Beverly Hill which, in an in-your-face gesture, she wore with an exquisite red couture dress.
For those readers keeping score as to how well the Palm Springs International Film Festival did this year as a precursor to the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, here is a listing of the honorees and presenters at the 2013 Awards Gala.
A Star-studded Event
“Argo” stars Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston received the Ensemble Performance Award presented by Tony Mendez. Director David O. Russell presented Bradley Cooper with the Desert Palm Achievement Award (Actor) for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
For her performance in “The Sessions,” Helen Hunt was given the Spotlight Award, presented by her co-star, John Hawkes.
The Internal Star Award for “Hitchcock” was presented by Tom Hooper to Dame Helen Mirren.
Mychael Danna received the Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing for “Life of Pi, presenter by Ang Lee.
Naomi Watts’ co-star, Tom Holland, presented her with the Desert Palm Achievement Award (Actress) for her work in “The Impossible.”
Richard Gere received the Chairman’s Award for “Arbitrage,” presented by Diane Lane.
Robert Zemeckis received the Director of the Year Award for “Flight,” presented by Tom Hanks.
For her portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln in “Lincoln,” Sally Field received the Career Achievement Award presented by Martin Sheen.
Tom Hopper received the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for “Les Miserables,” presented by Eddie Redmayne.
Dynamic duo of Galen and Kabler
Not that an excuse is needed, one spectacular party generally deserves another. But what do you do when your pre-Palm Springs International Film Festival gala has to top the one held a year ago; the one when snow was brought to the winter wonderland home of Helene Galen, Film Festival Vice Chair?
The answer: You put the dynamic duo of Galen and Jamie Kabler together and watch them produce a theme totally opposite to that of the previous year: You bring summer to the Desert, only during an unseasonable January cold spell.
The ‘return’ of summer was accomplished by tenting over the entire Galen back yard and placing frolicking swimmers wearing bathing suits into the pool.
Among the local celebrity guests who joined in the summer-party spirit were Jack Jones, Mary Hart, the perennially beautiful hostess of the Award Gala, Burt Sugarman and Carol Channing.
Also featured during the evening was a new coffee table book, titled “Audrey, the 60s.” Each guest received a copy of this 10-pound, picture-filled tome, personally autographed by the book’s author, David Wills. It was a fitting cap to the evening … an evening Audrey would have loved.